Do you have a suspicion that your workspace may be contributing to your neck and/or back pain? The good news is that setting up your space to minimize stress isn’t as difficult as you may think.
Let’s Start with the Basics
Start by sitting in your chair facing forward with perfect posture. While seated, build the work environment around you. In other words, position each piece of furniture and equipment to accommodate your perfect posture. You may need to stack several books under your computer’s monitor to bring it to eye-level. Perhaps a sliding keyboard attachment can make typing less stressful.
Remember, work might be a pain, but it doesn’t have to cause pain! Imagine still feeling refreshed at the end of the workday. Here are 5 things you should know to make sure your office is good for your spine to help prevent back and neck strain and pain.
Taking a Seat
Even with the best equipment, if you’re not sitting correctly, your spine will suffer. When sitting, note where your head, hands, and legs are. To avoid back pain, make sure to do the following.
- Sit upright with your back and shoulders against the back of the chair
- Avoid holding your phone between your head and shoulder
- Don’t slouch
- Arms should rest lightly on the armrests to avoid circulatory problems or nerve pressure
- Keep your feet flat on the floor. (Don’t cross your legs!)
- Relax your shoulders while typing
If there is one single item that is worth splurging on, I would consider it to be the chair. A well-constructed ergonomic chair helps reduce fatigue and discomfort, increase your blood flow, and reduce the risk of injury to your neck and spine.
An ergonomic chair that accommodates your daily tasks, is adjustable to your unique measurements and is made of material that can provide support throughout the day are key factors in making your decision. One of my personal favorite chairs is the Herman Miller Aeron chair.
While studying my Masters of Design, this chair had pretty much just launched onto the industrial design scene. This now iconic chair is a perfect blend of innovative materials, supports a variety of body type and is overall a slick design.
One of the latest, and most impressive responsive ergonomic chair that I have seen lately is the new LimbIc Chair by Inno-Design (shown on bottom right).
Tips for Selecting an Office Chair
- Has a good backrest that provides lumbar support
- Can recline (Sitting upright at a 90º angle is actually not good for your spine; a 100º to 110º angle is better.)
- Is not too high (Your feet should be flat on the floor.) Another option here is a footrest.
- Can rotate or swivel so that you can easily switch from task to task
The Work Surface
- Select a sturdy and strong desk (not wobbly or flimsy)
- Appropriate height (28″ to 30″ above the floor is suitable for most adults.)
- Large enough for your computer and has surface space for writing and other tasks
- Not so large that you have to over-reach to do your work (This can cause excessive strain on the spine.)
- Recent research shows that Sit/Stand workstations are reducing the incidence of low back pain in the worker population. The National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that, “A sit-stand worksation allows the user to intermittently sit or stand while working on the computer, participating in a conference call, or performing other work.
- in 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized the potential risks of prolonged sitting and encourages employers, employees and others to make available other options to sitting such as sit-stand workstations
- Taking frequent breaks to stand up from your desk has been proven to be just as effective as exercise in the reduction of low back pain from work related postures!
Let’s face it, a workstation without a computer these days just is not complete. How you position and place your computer and related equipment on the desk is very important in reducing the strain on your body to maintain a proper posture.
- Place the monitor directly in front of you at eye level, not off to one side, to avoid neck and eye strain.
- As a rule of thumb, the monitor should be 1 arms-length away
- Tilt the keyboard down and slightly away from you for better wrist posture. Avoid a posture where your wrists are in extension.
- Make sure your mouse is close enough so that you can use it with your arms relaxed, and let it be as close to your body as possible.
- If using a laptop, consider getting an external monitor or keyboard (or both). This will allow you to move each of these components separately to create a comfortable arrangement.
Give me a break
Not just a coffee break, but a spine break. Stretch, take a short walk, get the blood flowing. When you are at your desk, avoid staying in one position for a long time. Try switching between sitting and standing. Take frequent breaks to the water fountain to refill your cup and stay hydrated throughout the day.
Good Ergonomics = Good Economics